Gujarat ex-MLA murder: Police detain fellow BJP leader Chhabil Patel from Ahmedabad airport

Bhanushali, a former BJP MLA and former vice-president of Gujarat unit of the BJP was shot dead on board Sayajinagari Express between Gandhidham railway junction and Samakhiyali in Kutch district on January 8.

Around two months after sharp-shooters hired by him shot dead senior BJP leader Jayanti Bhanushali on board a moving train in Kutch district, a special investigation team (SIT) of Gujarat police detained former MLA and fellow BJP leader Chhabil Patel from Sardar Vallabhbhai International Airport in Ahmedabad as soon as his flight from the US landed there early on Thursday morning. Police say Chhabil Patel is the prime accused of the murder of Bhanushali and had fled to the US days before the crime was committed.

“He boarded and Emirates flight from New York and after a three-hour stopover at Dubai, landed on international airport in Ahmedabad at 3 am. We had this information. So, we detained him from there. His is presently under interrogation under us. He would be formally arrested soon,” Ashish Bhatia, director general of Criminal Investigation Department (crime) and Railway police of Gujarat police told The Indian Express.

The seven-member SIT is headed by Gautam Parmar, deputy inspector general of Gujarat Railway police. Officers of CID (crime), Railway police and Detection of Crime Branch of Ahmedabad are its members.

Chhabil Patel’s “surrender” comes six days after the SIT arrested his son Siddharth on March 9. SIT say that Siddharth was aware of the conspiracy hatched by his father Chhabil Patel to have Bhanushali murdered due to political rivalry and that had actively helped contract-killers by arranging motor-bikes, helmets etc for them. He is presently in judicial custody.

Bhanushali, a former BJP MLA and former vice-president of Gujarat unit of the BJP was shot dead on board Sayajinagari Express between Gandhidham railway junction and Samakhiyali in Kutch district on January 8. The 56-year-old politician was on his way to his home in Ahmedabad after visiting his native place in Abdasa taluka of Kutch district when he was confronted in his first-class compartment and shot in head and chest just past midnight. In his police complaint, Bhanushali’s nephew Sunil had named Chhabil Patel, his son Siddharth, one Jayanti Thakkar of Dungra village, a woman of Kutch and one Surjit Patel alias Bhau. The woman named in the complaint as an accused had alleged rape by Bhanushali early in 2018.

Bhanushali had to step down as the vice-president of the BJP after the woman filed a complaint of rape against him in July last year. However, the woman had later on withdrawn her case stating she had filed it due to “some misunderstanding” even as Bhanushali’s family alleged that the case was a conspiracy hatched by Chhabil Patel to finish Bhanushali off politically. Months later, another woman had filed a complaint against Chhabil Patel in Delhi but the former Congress MLA had got bail in the case.

Jayanti Bhanushali was elected MLA from Abdasa Assembly seat in 2007. However, Chhabil Patel, then a Congress candidate, had defeat Bhanushali in the 2012 Assembly election from the same seat, triggering a rivalry that culminated in bloodshed six years later. In the run up to the Lok Sabha election in 2014, Chhabil Patel had quit Congress and defected to the BJP. However, the rivalry between him and Bhanushali for controlling the Abdasa Assembly constituency did not abate.

The SIT has already arrested Sharp-shooters Vishal Kamble, Shashikant Kamble and Ashraf Sheikh of Pune. Rahul Patel and Nitin Patel, aides of Chhabil Patel too have been arrested. However, the woman and Bhau, who police say helped Chhabil Patel hire the sharp-shooters and give a Rs30 lakh contract to eliminate Bhanushali are still at large. Meanwhile, Kutch (east) police have booked Chhabil Patel’s nephew Piyush Vasani and relative Rasik Patel for allegedly conducting a recce of the witnesses of the murder case in Gandhidham and have arrested them.

After he was named in the murder case, Patel had released video statements saying he was innocent and that he had gone to the US for business reasons. He had also said that he would return to Gujarat and cooperate with police investigation.

However, after he remained absconding, Gujarat police had issued a lookout notice against him and had later secured a warrant from court to confiscate his property. The CID DG said that they were also in the process of getting an Interpol notice issued against Patel.

Source: The Indian Express

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